AMERICA ENTERS THE WORLD: A People's History of the Progressive Era and World War I by Page Smith
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AMERICA ENTERS THE WORLD: A People's History of the Progressive Era and World War I

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This latest, most satisfactory installment of Smith's exuberant, multi-faceted American history covers the period from Teddy Roosevelt's swearing-in (1901) to Harding's death (1923): the dominant personalities are of course that contrasting pair, Roosevelt and Wilson; the dominant themes are the climax of the struggle between capital and labor and, from Roosevelt's intercession in the Russo-Japanese War through WW I and Wilson's Fourteen Points, America's growing presence on the international scene. Smith relishes the impact and foibles of his leading characters, without trivializing them. His narrative is peopled with reformer-journalists and other activists, and shaded with their observations and opinions. (The period is rich in memoirs--some readers will regret the absence of source-notes.) He discusses landmark works like Herbert Croly's The Promise of American Life with vigor (more so than David Levy in the Croly biography, above); he boldly takes up such questions as the nature of progressivism (""Was it a continuation of populism with a more urban slant?"" etc.) and ""Should the United States have entered the war?"" Hewrites suggestive, self-contained chapters on aspects of ongoing events--juxtaposed are ""The Paterson Strike"" and ""Greenwich Village."" His Western perspective is usefully applied to conservation and farming; he is precise on the blacks' losing battle and the currents of radicalism. The main narrative is detailed on domestic politics and foreign policy; there are also worthy sections, at its close, on such diverse matters as education, technology, art and architecture, popular novels, and--in keeping with a marked female presence throughout--""Four Women Writers"" (representing four distinct sociocultural settings-Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, Willa Cather, Gertrude Atherton). At the start of this series, Smith's myriad particulars had a curio-cabinet aspect; here the heterogeneous material is held together by an intermesh of major and minor themes, major and minor figures. . . and the author's genial/gruff delivery.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1985
Publisher: McGraw-Hill